Corentin Biteau

Computer engineer @ Sopra Steria
Working (0-5 years experience)
Seeking work
237Lyon, FranceJoined Mar 2022

Bio

Participation
2

I'm living in Lyon, France. Learned about EA in 2018, found that great, digged a lot into the topic. The idea of "what in the world improves well-being or causes suffering the most, and what can we do" really influenced me a whole lot - especially when mixed with meditation that allowed me to be more active in my life.

I'm doing a lot of personal research on a whole lot of topics. I also co-wrote a book in French with a few recommendations on how to take action for a better world, and included a chapter on EA (the title is "Agir pour un Monde Durable"). I've participated in a few conferences after that, it's a good way to improve oral skills.

I'm working in computing and earning to give, but trying to acquire skills to get a job in EA. On of the most reliable thing I have found so far is helping animal charities : farmed animals are much more numerous than humans (and have much worse living conditions), and there absolutely is evidence that animal charities are getting some improvements (especially from The Humane League). Long-termism could also be important, but I think that we'll hit energy limits before getting to an extinction event - I'm doing some research about that for an EA forum post.

 

Debate policy:

1- If you ask me to do a debate on a topic that looks important, because you think I made a mistake in my reasoning, I will accept

2 - I will answer until I recognize I am wrong on something, or I provide counterpoints to everything you say, or we both agree we have different hypotheses about the world and can't come to an agreement

How others can help me

If I can get a job in EA one day, in a position where I can analyze and synthetize important stuff, I'd be really happy!

How I can help others

I just have an interest in whatever topic sounds really important, so I have a LOT of data on a lot of topics.  These include energy, the environment, resource depletion, simple ways to understand the economy, limits to growth, why we fail to solve the sustainability issue, and how we got to that very weird specific point in history.

I also have a lot of stuff on Buddhism and meditation and on "what makes us happy" (check the Waking Up app!)

Comments
94

Thanks for the report - I'll keep my initial estimate of tree planting as "not worth spending much time on that". This works feels very complete.

Just a suggestion: this post is kind of hard to read as it is now, so I think it could benefit from something like an executive summary that allows to grasp in a clear and simple way why tree planting is not as effective as one could expect (there are many interesting things you took into account, like albedo and impact on insects but it feels drowned in an ocean of numbers).

Oh, I had wrote a full answer in your curi.us debate space, but it says I need an account (it's weird that the "post public answer" box appears if it doesn't even if I don't have an account). 

I think I'll take up your offer to have an access to the forum just for a few months, please.

Oh, and thanks for the concern you're showing me, that's kind :)

Sorry - I exagerated a bit. I do not donate everything above my basic needs - still quite a good chunk but  not everything. 

I try to spend quite some time on error correction (and sometimes buy books instead of getting them from a library) - but in this realm I am still weighting that against, say, the impact I could obtain by donating to an animal charity instead. But I'm ready to do some spending if I feel there's a good chance to know more and improve.

 

The problem here is rather that I am not sure subscribing to this forum will really allow me to improve. 

I absolutely agree to your claim that EA has a lack of organized debate method, and could improve on fighting against bias. I could probably improve on that too, I think. I can agree with the "lacking methodology".

However, to actually improve, I need practical advice on how to improve. Or an example: for instance, seeing a debate where I see that a specific claim very important in EA is not impactful (for instance, that donating to charities that do corporate outreach in factory farming), and seeing the methodology that led to this claim. 

I want to point out that criticism of what exists currently is important but not enough - the way I personally work is that I need to see something better  in order to update correctly. Then I can be inspired by that better approach. 

For instance, I read your criticism of The Scout Mindset - it's interesting, there are good points, for instance that the examples she gives could be really biased. But what would add even more value to your post is recommending a book which does the same thing but better (so basically, a book about how to get better at updating how we view the world, written in a clear, streamlined way, with examples and practical advice - just more rigorous).

 

I really like to improve. But I need practical stuff for that - and I asked for it and still feel you didn't answer that (besides taking up a debate policy - you also made a list of actions but with no links to go deeper). 

I fear it could prove difficult for you to spread your ideas even further without a greater focus on that part.

But I come here and say I think EA is wrong about important issues

By the way, have you issued claims about EA being wrong on its list of priorities ? You have done so on methodology - which is important, but not the most engaging topic, so few people interacted with it (which is too bad). But have tried to make more specific claims, like "EA is wrong about putting effort on factory farming" ?

Thanks for the article, it definitely seems like an important problem.

This should get even worse because of the upcoming energy crisis

  1. Many energy sources need a lot of water to keep working
    1. Nuclear plants and coals plant need water to cool down the pipes
    2. Copper and lithium extraction are very water intensive, and the Chilean governement has already limited some of the use of water for mining
    3. Shale oil uses millions of liter of water
    4. Biofuels are extremely water intensive as well
  2. With les energy, the water depletion becomes worse. Water gets harder to pump, and desalination becomes even less of an option.

 

Just an additional note: I think the post would be better with a bit of formating. Keeping the bolding of the document, putting everything in justified. Keeping this quote :

Our blue planet holds plenty of water, but only 2.5% of it is fresh. The amount of fresh water
has fallen 35% since 1970, as ground aquifers have been drawn down and wetlands have
deteriorated. Meanwhile, demand for water-intensive agriculture and energy is soaring.
Overall water demand is on pace to overshoot supply by 40% by 2030. - Stuart
Goldenberg for Barron's, May 3, 2014

Ok - I though the $20 were for making posts, I didn't think it was for answering. 

I don't think I will pay $20 because all the money I earn beyond my basic needs is going to charities.

 

I can understand the CC BY issue, if you've had problems with it in the past. If you think you can have more impact by retaining property over what you write, then this is what you should do.

Ok, I don't really have the time to look into this in detail, this just sounds very much like an underestimate (especially as economic predictions usually don't include tipping points, cascading risks, and include poorly tail risks).

For instance, at -5°C compared to preindustrial during the last ice age, the North of America and Europe (including Canada and Scotland) were under a 3km thick ice sheet. I fear current climate change damage models would count this as a 4% GDP loss.

Ok - I subscribed to the forum but I don't know how to answer to the comment you linked to.

I'll answer here.

Why should anyone believe me about the quality or importance of anything I say, or be interested to keep going past reading one or two things? Because they can’t point out any errors so far.

Interesting, but I don't know if this is the right criteria. One thing is, I can't point out to an error you made because I can't evaluate your claims.  Our discussion was on abstract points of methodology, not facts or stuff you can verify - so of course I can't point out to an error, because there is no real result to check. 

Now I know I should keep an open mind, which I do, especially since I can't point to errors in the reasoning itself. But it's hard to believe things I can't verify and see by myself.

Which is why I keep asking for stuff like examples and concrete things. It's easier to grasp these and to verify them.
 

If you get ideas from public intellectuals who are doing rationality wrong, then you are in trouble too, not just them. You need to do rationality things right yourself and/or find thought leaders who are doing things right. So it is each individual’s problem even if they aren’t a public intellectual.

It's really not obvious to anyone that "not having a debate policy" is "doing rationality wrong". Especially when the concept itself is so uncommon. If this is the criteria I really don't know who is doing rationality right (but then again, I don't really know who is doing rationality right).
Then again, most people do not get challenged into debates. Even EAs. So it makes sense that they think such a concept is not for them.

 

Just to test, you'll be happy to know I adopted a debate policy  ! We'll see what results that provides in 10 years.

 

I’m more interested in enabling someone to become a great thinker by a large effort, not in offering some quick wins.

Ah, ok. I see where we differ here.

I try to have the most impact I can in the world, so I judge what I do by "what positive impact did this have?" As such, quick wins that can target a larger public have a larger impact, and a higher chance of changing things, so I decided on that. Which is why this seems more important to me.

But it appears that you have a different goal in mind - you seek high-level discussions with like-minded individuals. I can understand that.

 

Same for the CC BY license. I know I'd have less impact if I left the forum, and what I write is there with the goal of being shared anyway, so I don't really care about that.

Ok, interesting question.

First, most of what I'm saying challenges deeply what is usually said about energy, resources or the economy. 

So the ideas that disagree with me are the established consensus, which is why I'm already familiar with the counter-arguments usually put forward against to energy depletion:

  • We've heard about it earlier and didn't "run out"
  • Prices will increase gradually
  • Technology will improve and solve the problem
  • We can have a bigger economy and less energy
  • We'll just adapt

So in my post I tried my best to adress these points by explaining why ecological economists and other experts on energy and resources think they won't solve the problem (and I'm in the process of writing a post more focused on adressing explicited these counter-arguments).

I also read some more advanced arguments against what these experts said (debates with Richard Heinberg, articles criticizing Jean-Marc Jancovici). But each time I've seen limits to the reasoning. For instance, what was said againt the Limits to growth report (turns out most criticism didn't adress the core points of the report). 

I'm not aware of any major thinker that is fluent on the topic of energy and its relationship with the economy, and optimistic on the topic. However, the one that was the most knowledgeable about this that I found was Dave Denkenberger, director of ALLFED, and we had a lot of exchanges, where he put some solid criticism against what I said. For some of what I wrote, I had to change my mind. For some other stuff, I had to check the litterature and I found limits that he didn't take into account (like on investment). This was interesting (and we still do not agree, which I find weird). But I tried my best to find reviewers that could criticize what I said.

Oh, true. I didn't catch that.

Thanks for the precision.

I don't have access to the study (I may find a way to access it later). I'm just surprised by the result.

The most pessimistic pathway without mitigation would result in a net economic impact equivalent to 6.6% (3.9–8.6%) of global GDP at the end of this century.

This impact sounds awfully small. The worst climate causing a decrease of 4% to 8% GDP?

Are these impacts derived from DICE or calculations by Nordhaus, or his peers ? If yes, there are huge methodological flaws in the way this results was obtained (for instance, they only model the impact on GDP for outdoors activites).

I recommend watching this video to understand commons limits of calculations made on GDP impacts.

This papers on the topic is also very interesting.

 

I really deaths from war should be included, if the war wouldn't have taken place without climate change (which is of course very hard to evaluate - climate change is one factor that adds pressure but is combined with others).

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